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"How Many Minis for Medieval and Renaissance Battles?" Topic

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Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2020 12:41 p.m. PST

I realize this is a very open-ended question, with perhaps no real answer, but thought I'd float it anyway, since I'd like to have a rough idea of what I'm getting myself into, before choosing scales, and starting one or more medieval, and/or renaissance armies.

So, what is a good number of figures to purchase for a battle, or battles, for the Hundred Years Wars (Poitiers, or, more likely, the Agincourt period); Wars of the Roses; Battles on the Euro continent in the mid +/- 1400s; Burgundian Wars, and/or for the early Italian Wars (1490 – 1525, or so)?

I know you can get away with fewer troops for those little, DBA armies, and obviously need more for the Big Battles DBA, DBM, and/or DBR rules. Not sure if I'll use any of those, or perhaps some other ones.

I do own the Maximilian rules, and have those "tucked away safely somewhere" (a possible euphemism for lost?). Others include the olde WRG rules, and Poleaxed (I think I got the latter title right).

Additional rules of interest include:

Medieval Warfare by Terry Gore (don't know if these are still for sale)

Not sure I have the time or funds to prep, base, and paint hundreds of troops, but I don't want an army that looks ridiculously small either (no offense intended to the DBA players – I do want and intend to create a pair or more of armies for those rules), so what's a good base number to shoot for?

I'm thinking somewhere on the order of 100 – 150 troops or so, with a mix of cavalry and foot troops.

Does 20 – 24 horse-mounted knights, plus 100+ foot troops work, and sound like a decent number to start with, for one side, for the above periods?

Would you go with 15mm troops, or 25mm/28mm ones?

Clearly, the smaller figs are more affordable, but they seem to me to possibly be less impressive on the tabletop, unless you make up larger armies, so I suspect you end up spending the same, if not more with the smaller 15mm figs anyway.

Given the above, what do you think is a reasonable number of figs to consider fielding for the various periods, and accounting for different rules, army compositions, unit types (knights and MAA, foot troops, archers, cav, artillery, scouts, etc.), etc., etc.

Of course, I'm happy to entertain any thoughts on what are the best rules for the above, too.

Garand04 Oct 2020 12:45 p.m. PST

The only suggestions I can make is build army lists from the rules you are interested in to determine the minimum army size, & calculate figures from there. One generality I see often is that many western medieval armies tend to have a 25%/25%/50% of cavalry/archers/infantry. So if you build towards that, it should work in a generic way.


gunnerphil04 Oct 2020 12:53 p.m. PST

If you want to use a small number of figures, why not fight the smaller battles?

Take a look a "Lion Rampant"

Personal logo Bashytubits Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2020 1:32 p.m. PST

I think Lion Rampant is an excellent starting point.

Martyn K04 Oct 2020 2:04 p.m. PST

I can only speak for the Italian Wars (1496-1525). You can of course go crazy, I have nearly 2000 figures and can make pike blocks with up to 196 figures in a single block. However, I had a think about what I would recommend as a minimum. The advantage of the Italian Wars was that everyone was switching sides and allying with each other. So you could make two very small armies to fight each other, or if chosen carefully you could combine them to make a single army to fight someone else's army. For this situation I would chose either Spanish or French as the main army and choose an Italian State supported by either Landsknecht or Swiss as the other.
While I like large pike blocks, I think 20 figures is the smallest I would go (I actually go down as far as 24 in my armies). For shot, 6-8 figures would be a minimum and cavalry 8 figures. I use Pike and Shotte rules. My suggested armies would be:

2 units of Gendarmes (2 units of 8 figures)
1 French pike block (1 unit of 20 figures)
2 units of French cross bow (2 units of 6 figures)
1 cannon (with 4 figures)

1 unit of knights (1 unit of 8 figures)
1 unit of mounted shot (crossbow/arq)
1 unit of foot arquebusiers (6 figures)
2 units of Swiss Pike (2 units of 20 figures)
1 unit of Swiss crossbow (6 figures)

For the Milanese units I would make sure that I could change the flags to French flags. For example the Milanese knights could change to French Gendarmes with a simple flag change when combining the armies.

Here you have two forces for a very small game or one reasonable force to fight another opponent.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2020 4:17 p.m. PST

If your heart's set on individually-mounted 28mm, think something like Mersey's six and 12-figure units, and One Hour Wargames' 10-unit armies. It's a nice place to start until you're sure of the rules and armies.

But contrary to your pronouncement, smaller figures do cost less for the same frontage unless you insist on the same unhistorical depth we're obliged to use in 28mm, and look and feel more like an army. In that case, pick a stand-removal set of rules, keep the frontage and reduce the depth, and use 6mm or 10mm figures.

gavandjosh0204 Oct 2020 4:59 p.m. PST

I'd support Martyn K's suggestion

Legionarius04 Oct 2020 6:47 p.m. PST

All the above suggestions are fine. But remember, it's your game. Whatever strikes your fancy, your budget, and the time available. Usually we buy tons of stuff and only a fraction of the lead/plastic pile gets painted. Such is wargaming…
And it's wonderful!

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP04 Oct 2020 7:35 p.m. PST

Thanks for the replies. I appreciate them.

Still let wondering a bit how many minis you need for your average set of medieval, and/or renaissance rules?

100 – 120, 200 or more, etc., etc.?

I know with rules like DBA, and similar, you can use a lot fewer minis, but not sure about other rules sets like Impetus, Medieval Warfare, etc., etc..

I do get that you don't have to match the frontages with the 15mm figs if using those, as compared to the 25mm/28mm ones, but it seems to me that a lot of people, myself included, would be more inclined to create larger units with them, in order to make them look more impressive on the tabletop, when arrayed for battle.

khanscom04 Oct 2020 7:42 p.m. PST

I usually play DB(x) rules for ancients and Renaissance games. With Big Battle DBA, assuming 36 elements with a maximum of 4 figures per element, you'd need no more than 144 figures.

Even fewer would be needed if you have a substantial number of mounted or loose order elements.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Oct 2020 1:09 a.m. PST


I had a quick look at my 2019 Italian Condotta competition army (for To the Strongest!)- this has 42 cavalry and a mere 41 infantry. Usually, though, an army would have a higher infantry to cavalry ratio.


Arcane Steve05 Oct 2020 4:49 a.m. PST

You might like to consider the latest rules release for the Wars of The Roses 'Never Mind The Bill Hooks' aimed at large Skirmish/small battle level. The rules were available as a free supplement with Wargames Illustrated 393.

You would need about 100 figures for the average game which should take about 2 hours or so to play. The rules give specific guidance on how many figures make up the various units and allow the players some leeway to mix and match their army so long as a core of Bows and Bills are included.
You can read a bit more by going to my blog here:
I still have a few copies of WI393 which has the free rules set here:
and of course, you can down load the rules as a PDF from Wargames Illustrated here:
That last link also has a clear guide to what a sample army looks like and plenty of information for the game.
I hope that this helps, regards, Steve

Eumelus Supporting Member of TMP05 Oct 2020 6:31 a.m. PST

1. Who are you going to be gaming with? If it's your mates in your local club, what era and scale of battle do they want to game? If it's mostly regional or national tournaments, what are they playing?

2. Read every thread on TMP for your period of interest. Doing so will give you a good idea of the vast scope of the questions you ask, and how there can't be any simple answer. Realize that everybody (including me) is tempted to answer "what is the best" questions with "what do I play?"

3. Buy several sets of rules and test them with paper figs, cardboard unit templates, etc. There are lots of free rules sets, and also many can be purchased in pdf form so that you can be playing them immediately, even in these COVID days.

4. Rules are cheap, and time spent on reconnaissance is never wasted. Figures are pricy and painting time limited. And no matter what period and what army, always use PVA white glue for basing because at some point in the future you will want to rebase. Trust me.

Personal logo BigRedBat Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Oct 2020 7:00 a.m. PST

always use PVA white glue for basing because at some point in the future you will want to rebase. Trust me.

True, that! :-)

Warspite105 Oct 2020 1:07 p.m. PST

Hmmmmm! (ponders)
This is clearly one of those 'how long is a piece of string?' questions. The answer will depend on several initial factors:

1) what level do you wish to fight at? Skirmish or major battles?
2) which rules will you use?
3) how big is your wargames table?
4) how deep are your pockets?
5) will you be travelling with your army or staying at home?

1) and 2) are self evident and are questions which only the original poster can answer. However the answers to 1 + 2 will greatly influence 3), 4) and 5).

The size of one's table is something which we often overlook at our peril. If you wish to fight with 28mm figures then a 6ft x 4ft table is the very minimum in my view. Frankly, for 28mm, a 8 or 10 feet long table might be better to allow for wiggle room and flanking moves.
Four feet is a typical/comfortable table width as that is the width that most healthy people can comfortably lean over and I DO have a dodgy back, 4 ft 6ins or 5 ft widths and I am really pushing it.
The size of your wargaming room, loft, shed or basement will also dictate the size of your table. My 6 x 4 is in a room just over twice that size so this means that, with storage, myself and an opponent have the room to comfortably sit down at the sides or edge around the table without having our clothes picking up the trees or sweeping figures off.

If a 6 x 4 table space is going to be difficult to realise then 15mm, 12mm, 10mm or 6mm figures will be the way to go. The smaller the scale the greater the opportunity to use smaller table spaces.

My personal choice is a 6 x 4 table with 15mm figures. This gives me realistic ranges on-table and sufficient manoeuvre space at the edges for flank attacks or more pretty scenery.
Remember that staying in the same figure scale for ALL periods often has other cost benefits. A 15mm scale bridge is just that pick a plain stone bridge and it can be ancient, medieval or even WW2. A bridge is just a bridge after all!
The same applies to stone walls, hedges, rivers and many buildings. A 'Saxon' church can be used in any later century as we have a couple of churches near me in Norfolk which are still recognisably Saxon in origin today. Similarly half-timbered buildings start appearing around the 14th century in England and can probably be used from any point onwards. Wars of the Roses this week, English Civil War next week and a Very British Civil War (1938) the week after the same building will suit all needs.

Cost is the next factor. The costs for basic terrain can be kept down as in the previous paragraph by keeping to the same figure scale for all periods.
As a rough rule of thumb 15mm have always been about half (or less) the cost of 28mm. That can mean you get more heads on the table for the same cash outlay, or the same numbers as the larger figure scales but for half the cost.
Remember also that smaller scales mean smaller base sizes, which means smaller and easier storage and cost savings in that area as well. If you think you will be travelling with your army then think smaller. Do you want to lug around huge boxes of fragile 28mm figs especially if you are using public transport?


Warspite105 Oct 2020 1:15 p.m. PST

@ Thresher01:
"Still let wondering a bit how many minis you need for your average set of medieval, and/or renaissance rules?
100 120, 200 or more, etc., etc.?"

Look at the army lists and see what the minimums are in the lists OR go to a club meeting or wargames show and see how many figures are being fielded.
If you have a regular opponent either match him/her or both of you agree an upper ceiling otherwise you might get into a wargamers' version of the Arms Race!


gavandjosh0205 Oct 2020 3:29 p.m. PST

you might want to consider how many troops were present at a few historical battles. Novara (1513) Italian Wars- 9K Swiss plus a few Milanese horse and 8 guns vs. 12K French.
The swiss had 3 pike blocks 6K(I use 96 figs); 2K(32 figs); 1K(16 figs) 4 or 6 horse; other units present 2 guns supported by 8 or 12 arquebusiers. French 6K(Landsknechts-96figs)4Kfrench inf.(say 32 pike; 32 cbw)1K(gendarmes 24 or 36 gendarmes); 1K lt horse(16 mtd cbw/arq); other – 4 guns. variable cav numbers because I have some 2 per base and some 3.

SimonGamer06 Oct 2020 9:45 a.m. PST

FWIW for my Impetus based 28mm HYW armies I have 180-200 on each side. That's with 6-8 per base foot and 4 mounted so you get a lot of bases for the figure count. That makes a 600pt army for each side, between 27-30 bases excluding command stands.

Obviously if you like more dense bases then you would need more figures for the same base count.

Thresher01 Supporting Member of TMP06 Oct 2020 10:54 a.m. PST

Thanks for the info, and all the replies. I appreciate them.

I'd like to do some skirmish to larger battles. Probably more on the larger battle side of things than skirmish.

I'll have to check to see what the local club is using.

I know they've done a lot of DBA in the past, as well as some DBM/DBMM. Not sure about anything else.

I'll have to dig out and find my olde rules too, to see what they say. I seem to recall Maximilian looked to be a rather nice, and well written rules set. Not sure how it plays though. I also have Poleaxed and Tactica II.

May have to check out the Impetus rules, and the new Never Mind the Billhooks ones too.

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP06 Oct 2020 1:19 p.m. PST

Playing what the locals do (if you like them) is always a good idea.

DBMM is quite a challenge to master, but you get results that feel like real battles, and you can scale up from DBA to there (though these are very different games). Its worth the effort if you have partners to play.

The main decision will be scale. I prefer 28mm for the minis and variety, but its hard to paint enough to get a decent army going. You can skirmish with almost the same minis, though (except pikes – which are a battle weapon, and you will want many of these in your army).

Impetus is a pretty interesting alternative that we played a lot here, with 28mm – you can start your base of 12*6cm with just a couple of minis on it to mark it, and then increase this mini diorama until it looks impressive.

One important factor is looks, and a good pikeblock of the Renaissance needs to look impressive – as it often represents several thousands. The pro-aspect is that you will only need two or three per army. In 28mm I use them from 6 to 12 width (6-9cm) with 4-8 ranks, 96 being the big block. Some 200 pike, 40 shot, 6 cannon and 40 gensdarmes, perhaps 10 light cavalry (Stradiots or Italians) will make a well sized 28mm army for Impetus or FOGR. At least that is what I did for myself.

SHaT198426 Aug 2021 10:05 p.m. PST

Venturing forth into a new (old) arena where I'd painted some sample figures 30 odd yrs ago and having given them to a friend; had them returned when I expressed a desire to paint something different.

That said, and I know the world is a bigger place than mine, but surely you want to use what is compatible with other gamers; club/ locality/ centre or whatever rules they use. If you're a loner (lone wolf) then anything can do.

And so I find myself in the DBMM camp since thats what my locals use; plenty of advice and a collection of second-hand figures to finagle into shape. Trouble is I don't know my bombard from my doublet!

So cruising on I am, looking at posts, threads and 'approved' lists, the rules (in hand Lulu) and suggestions on France or Burgundian (but not the famous). I'm using artistic license and laissez-faire to figures and designs, perhaps [some may say even] insolent or irreverent and fantasy schemes.
Though the Teutons I inherited will remain the serious dudes…
cheers dave

Swampster27 Aug 2021 12:14 p.m. PST

If going the DBA -> DBMM route, then you can step from one to the other through DBMM100 and DBMM200. These use smaller number of points than the 'full' version which is usually around 400 to 500 points.
A DBMM100 army with quite a few knights will be very similar in size to a DBA army.

Of course you can also play games without points e.g. as a refight of an historical battle.

SHaT198427 Aug 2021 4:29 p.m. PST

>>If going the DBA -> DBMM route,

AM not. This is a throwback simply because the guy who had taken my 'samples' never used them. He's a gregarious fellow who can't stand still in one period, rules or anything. Well, he only has one wife AFAIK…

SO no I'm starting fresh as a daisy in a field of wheat; got my (17) samples back and then happily he offered the rest of his lead pile of same troops since he had at least 4 armies TBD.

With that I understand the lower points armies, I'll bring to battle what I have in hand and then perhaps seek expansion, or direction (era is really up in the air and flexible).

I literally bought the Hotspur miniatures because they looked so good [and were being made under license by friends at the time] and revived a 'medieval' need in me. However the 'Knights Of Ni' will regardless get a place!

As you can tell I may well not be taking this seriously, and risk being pilloried by my peers for treachery.

Gorgrat27 Aug 2021 6:45 p.m. PST

Medieval and Renaissance? I play strictly dba in those eras, or HOTT if I want Sir Galahad vs. Leonardo tanks, or wharever.

So maybe 30-60 per side.

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